View Full Version : Santa Fe Station/Heartland Flyer



Patrick
02-16-2005, 01:41 AM
Looks like the Santa Fe Station and restrooms will finally be open when travelers enter OKC on Amtrak from Fort Worth. Finally, OKC won't be the worst stop on the line, but travelers will get to see the beuty of the Sante Fe Train Station.

Only one problem...without state help, Amtrak won't continue, as federal funding runs out this year.

Part of me says we need to fund Amtrak to provide another transportation alternative for visitors to our city. But another part of me says it's a waste of taxpeyer money, as it isn't self-supporting, and it isn't serving that great a percentage of travelers.

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"City Council approves train security funds
by Brian Brus
The Journal Record
2/16/2005

The Oklahoma City Council approved funding to provide regular security for the city's Amtrak train depot Tuesday even as Mayor Mick Cornett noted the Heartland Flyer is expected to lose its federal funding later this year.
The Santa Fe Depot east of the Cox Convention Center will be open to the public at a cost of about $1,080 per month. The Bricktown Association and the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitor's Bureau will each contribute $300 per month, with the balance to be picked up by the Oklahoma City Public Property Authority. The council approved the plan with a unanimous vote.

Under the amendment to the professional services agreement with the authority, the depot's bathroom also will be kept open to the public during times of rail service, solving a problem that has been brought to council members several times. Security will be provided a minimum of two hours nightly.

Amtrak's Heartland Flyer route between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth is approaching its sixth anniversary this summer. The passenger rail service returned to Oklahoma after a 20-year absence, and since then it has served nearly 300,000 passengers, a state Transportation Department spokeswoman said. In fiscal year 2004, the Flyer had approximately 53,500 passengers.

The southbound Flyer leaves the city daily at 8:25 a.m. and arrives in Fort Worth at 12:39 p.m. The northbound train leaves Fort Worth at 5:25 p.m. and arrives back in Oklahoma City at 9:39 p.m. The train stops at Norman, Purcell, Pauls Valley, Davis and Ardmore on its way to Texas.

But the service does not pay for itself. Since 1999, the state Department of Transportation has contracted with Amtrak to operate the Flyer with the support of federal funds. That funding ends in September, after which time it will be up to state and regional governments to subsidize budget shortfalls.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta this week reiterated the Bush administration's plan to turn over development of the nation's passenger rail system to the states this year. President Bush's plan is to provide a one-to-one federal funds match against state dollars for investments in stations, trains and other passenger-rail infrastructure. Amtrak would only operate trains, leaving ownership of assets such as stations to other transportation agencies, Mineta said.

Mineta said Amtrak has drained nearly $30 billion in federal funds since it was established as a for-profit entity in 1970.

"It's on our legislative list of things we hope the state Legislature appropriates," Cornett said in council. "But we will not know until later if and when a vote is taken. We would urge citizens who care about Amtrak to let their state legislator know.

"The funding that's necessary is about $3.5 (million) to $4 million," Cornett said. "It's a lot of money to Oklahoma City but when you compare transportation dollars it is less than the cost of building one mile of Interstate highway."

floater
02-16-2005, 07:28 AM
I desperately want it to stay open. It's just so unfortunate that it's such a successful line in terms of passenger count, yet it continues to bleed money.

Midtowner
02-16-2005, 08:50 AM
Floater, that's the Amtrack way.

With all the subsidies thrown their way, they will continue to hemmorage money. I would be in favor of yanking all federal subsidies and allowing a company with competant management to try to create a profitable business. Amtrack just isn't getting it done.

HOT ROD
02-16-2005, 11:02 AM
Bleeding aside, I think it should stay. Amtrak is too important for Okc's image as a big city, if nothing else. Big cities have numerous travel options - and I am sure people would rather travel by train to Dallas vs the hassle of flying.

I think the service needs to be improved, from the offerings on the train to the terminal downtown. I think the state should allocate 1% gasoline tax for the service and other transit options in the state. It may need to be an additional tax, say a penny added to a gallon; but this revenue would be available for transportation (other than road mtc).

Here is my list of what to do with the additional revenue
1) ensure OKC has AMTRAK service
2) expand the service with a FTW-OKC morning line, resulting in dual trains.
FTW-OKC 7am - 12 noon OKC-FTW 7pm - 11pm, in addition to the OKC-FTW current line. Instead of having OKC as a feeder to FTW, bring Texans into OKC as tourists and for business.
3) offer services on the train (such as restaurant quality meals, massage, so on) to cover operator expenditures and more or less turn the train into an attraction
4) have front desk agents at the ticket counter at the AMTRAK station downtown OKC, from 7:00 am - 11:00 pm. have security 24/7, open a restaurant(s), gift store, and other revenue generating businesses in the downtown terminal, have actual AMTRAK gate agents there to meet/greet/assist PAX
5) explore express trains, that just go from downtown OKC (and maybe Norman) to FTW in two hours; as revenue builds from services at the station(s)
6) expand the service 1st to KS (with $$ from Kansas as a req as Wichita and maybe Arkansas City would get a stop) and second to Tulsa
6a) institute AMTRAK motorcoach with nonstop Tulsa to OKC via bus until the rail line is running. consider other motorcoach lines as well - to use OKC as a regional hub for transit (FINALLY)
7) over time, consider another agency other than AMTRAK to run the service(s), that are more cost effective and could offer more tourist type trains

I think my list would not only be cost effective but also would be very easy to implement. It should become self-sustaining, with the added attractions available for travelers and tourists into Oklahoma City and it just adds to the list of things to do in OKC.

my last statement is why we need to keep AMTRAK in OKC, it enhances our states as a big city because there are lots of things to do here and many ways to get here!

Patrick
02-16-2005, 11:15 AM
Looks like the mayor isn't too optimistic about the service staying around. Why did we even bother starting it to begin with if we were just going to allow it to end? Seems like now they've created a somewhat regular group of riders. Ending it now just means the federal funds spent to get it going over the past few years were a waste of tax payer money.

"Mayor expects end of Heartland Flyer


By Hank Jenkins and Bryan Dean
The Oklahoman

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said Tuesday he expects train service in the state to end when federal funding for the Amtrak Heartland Flyer runs out in September.
Cornett's comments came as the city council voted to provide security as Amtrak passengers arrive and depart from the downtown Santa Fe Train Depot, which is the end of the line for the Heartland Flyer.

He said he does not believe the state will come forward with the $4 million needed to keep the train running between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas.

Cornett said with only a small portion of Oklahoma towns along the route of the Heartland Flyer, it would be hard to get legislation passed for it to continue.

"It is an issue where, if you are trying to get votes at the Legislature, how many communities benefit?" Cornett said. "Well, not half. How are you going to get half of the votes if fewer than half benefit?"

Cornett said he would like to see train service extended into Kansas in the future.

Joe Kyle, manager of the rail programs division of the state Transportation Department, said hopes of expanding the service north to Kansas would end if the funding lapses.

"I don't think Oklahomans want to lose their Heartland Flyer service," Kyle said. "If it's lost, I just don't see it ever returning. That is the real sad and sobering thought."

Kyle said he is hopeful a combination of state and federal funding can keep the train running. He said the state would likely have to take the lead role in funding the train beginning Oct. 1.

"I think Oklahomans would feel good about supporting that Heartland Flyer service for Oklahoma," Kyle said.

Kyle said ridership on the train is up 20 percent this year.

Tom Elmore, director of the nonprofit North American Transportation Institute, said he doesn't think city and state leaders have fought hard enough for Amtrak service in Oklahoma. He said chances of the train surviving look grim, but added he is not ready to call it quits.

"I will just say that I hope people will stand up for the train," Elmore said. "We ought to build on what we have achieved rather than throwing it away."

Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman said the council's vote to bring security to the Santa Fe Train Depot could help keep Amtrak in Oklahoma.

"I think this will heighten the awareness and importance of Amtrak and the need to keep it funded," Bowman said. "Sure there are questions about whether we are going to have continued service after September. But, if Oklahoma City has found a way to dig in and do something locally about its own image, I think the attention is nothing but positive in terms of support for the needed funding."

With the agreement approved by the council, passengers now will have a place to go to the rest room and stay out of the weather.

The monthly cost of the security services will be $1,083, with the Bricktown Association and the Convention and Visitors Bureau each paying $300 a month and the city paying the remaining $483 a month and any overtime costs at $18 an hour.

The agreement will pay for a security guard who will open and close the station, patrol and report maintenance problems.

The agreement is scheduled to run through Sept. 30. "

Patrick
02-16-2005, 11:22 AM
I'll address some of the issues Hot Rod mentioned.

1. I think you bring up a good point about having a morning train from Fort Worth to OKC. Seems like the Heartland Flyer has been a service more for Oklahomans to get to Texas, not for Texans to get to Oklahoma.

2. If Amtrak is going to survive here, we need faster trains. Right now the Heartland Flyer runs slower than most automobiles. I can get to Fort Worth much faster driving.

3. Having the line extend through Tulsa to KC might be moe profitable. That would serve more of the state instead of just the southern central portions of the state.

4. Improving services at the Santa Fe Train Station and having Amtrak representatives there most of the time to sell tickets probably would help the train a lot. A lot of people are turned away from Amtrak now because of the hassle in getting tickets, and because of the overall quality of our train station. Our train station isn't bad, the problem is we don't use it to its full potential.

5. Having someone else manage this other thna Amtrak would be a better option. Amtrak has failed to show a profit, and a lot of it probably has to do with mismangement. Get the right company in place that markets the service right, and it may be profitable.

Patrick
02-16-2005, 11:24 AM
One issue I differ with Hot Rod on....I oppose increasing the gasoline tax to pay for this service. I don't think people should have to pay for this service that don't use it and don't benefit from it in someway. Sure, I guess you could say the same thing about taxes for education but most everyone uses the school system at one time or another, not everyone uses Amtrak. The people that use Amtrak should pay to keep it around, if they really want it.

Midtowner
02-16-2005, 11:31 AM
Bleeding aside, I think it should stay. Amtrak is too important for Okc's image as a big city, if nothing else. Big cities have numerous travel options - and I am sure people would rather travel by train to Dallas vs the hassle of flying.

my last statement is why we need to keep AMTRAK in OKC, it enhances our states as a big city because there are lots of things to do here and many ways to get here!

Something tells me that if AMTRAK is allowed to manage it, it will never be self-sufficient. I think a line *could* be profitable. But it never will be if AMTRAK is allowed to run it.

Check out this article:


The Little Engine that Couldn't: Amtrak Fails Again
Acela Express, Amtrak's hope for the 21st Century, shuts down because of faulty equipment, safety concerns.

WASHINGTON - Less than two years after being introduced, inspectors have found cracks in the suspension pieces of three high-speed Acela Express locomotives, forcing a cancellation of most high-speed service. Only 2 of 18 trains will be running, and a 19th train was turned back to the manufacturer because key modifications were not made.

This shutdown is only the latest example of the profligate expenditures, mismanagement, and general incompetence at the nation's publicly subsidized monopoly rail company. After spending billions of taxpayer dollars to introduce high-speed service, Amtrak declared earlier this year that it needed a $1.2 billion dollar cash injection from Congress or it would shut down all service. The government kicked in $205 million to keep trains running, yet in the month of July alone, 35 of the brand new Acela Express trips were cancelled, mostly due to equipment problems.

"How many billions do we have to give these rail monopolists before their trains run reliably?" asked taxpayer Advocate Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform. "For 30 years we have experimented with a government-run railroad, and all we get are dilapidated trains, unsafe tracks, and gaping budgetary holes plugged with taxpayer money. The time has come for rationalization, and privatization, of Amtrak."

Created 30 years ago to modernize passenger rail travel and to make it profitable, Amtrak has operated in the red every year, receiving over $15 billion in taxpayer subsidies. In 2001 alone, Amtrak lost $1.1 billion. Its 13 separate unions and mandated service on unprofitable routes destroy flexibility and drain money out of the few profitable lines in the system. In 1997, Congress passed a reform plan that provided over $5 billion in further subsidies in exchange for restructuring toward self-sufficiency by the end of 2002. Unfortunately, it appears that Amtrak will need a bigger subsidy than ever in 2003.

"Acela Express was supposed to drive Amtrak into the 21st Century," Norquist continued. "But Acela is driving nowhere, because the locomotives keep breaking. With service shut down, it seems taxpayers are the only ones being taken for a ride."

http://www.atr.org/pressreleases/2002/081302pr.html

And this article:



May 22, 1997
Amtrak Subsidies: This is no Way to Run a Railroad

by Stephen Moore

Stephen Moore is director of fiscal policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Last year Amtrak celebrated its silver anniversary. After a quarter-century, we still haven't learned what should have been evident when Richard Nixon launched this ill-begotten experiment: Uncle Sam doesn't have a clue as to how to run a railroad.

Since 1972 Amtrak has received more than $13 billion of federal subsidies. Twenty-five years later, Amtrak appears no closer to financial independence than the day taxpayer assistance began. Worse, Amtrak has no apparent plan to become self-sufficient. In fact, it is now pressing for a half-cent of the federal gasoline tax in order to have a permanent umbilical cord to the federal treasury. That hardly seems fair, since people who pay the gasoline tax -- that is, people who drive their cars -- aren't using Amtrak.

A recent Cato Institute study which I coauthored with Wendell Cox and Jean Love shows that virtually every stated justification for continued Amtrak subsidies is based on myth, not reality. Examples:Amtrak makes a negligible contribution to the nation's transportation system. Amtrak represents just .007 percent of all daily commuter trips and just 0.4 percent of all intercity trips.

Amtrak's typical riders are not low-income Americans. The poor are less likely to travel by Amtrak than by most other travel options. Only 13 percent of Amtrak passengers have incomes below $20,000. The average Amtrak rider has a higher household income than the average taxpayer. In fact, the clientele for Amtrak Metroliner service between Washington and New York consists largely of Wall Street traders, K Street lobbyists and other affluent business travelers. These folks aren't poor.

But it's a myth that Amtrak simply could not survive under private ownership and operation. There is no law of nature or economics that says that trains must lose money. Because of government control, however, Amtrak costs are far higher than necessary. Amtrak provides especially unprofit-able services for political reasons, and it is hamstrung by archaic work rule provisions that make it more expensive than other travel options. For example, federal law requires Amtrak to pay up to six years of severance pay to workers who are laid off.

If Amtrak could shed some of its worst money-losing routes, reorganize its management and reform its Byzantine work rules, it could save hundreds of millions of dollars. Competitively contracting food service could also save millions of dollars (and might improve meal service) on the trains.

Freed of excessive federal regulation and political control, Amtrak would be capable of earning profits on some services, especially in the Northeast Corridor. The Metro-liner, which serves the Northeast Corridor, already covers 90 percent of its fully allocated costs already and could be profitable in the absence of federal regulation and ownership. Some services, especially long-distance routes, could be operated at higher fares as "land cruises" with costs paid in full by users.

Amtrak has virtually no impact on reducing traffic congestion, pollution or energy use. Even a doubling of train ridership would reduce energy consumption and traffic congestion by less than 0.1 percent. Amtrak is by far the most highly subsidized form of intercity transportation. The average taxpayer subsidy per Amtrak rider is $100, or 40 percent of the total per-passenger cost. Even this figure doesn't adequately express how hugely inefficient some long-distance routes are today. For example, the average subsidy to a New York-Los Angeles rider exceeds $1,000. The estimated round trip subsidy per passenger for a Denver-Chicago trip is $650. It would be cheaper for taxpayers to shut down routes like these and purchase discount round-trip airfare for all Amtrak riders.

Most Americans do not want to see rail passenger service disappear in the United States. Taking a train trip is fun, exciting and often memorable. Many routes go through breathtaking scenery, such as those running through Glacier National Park. Trains are a wonderful way to see America.

For hopelessly unprofitable routes, service should be canceled, just as cruise line service from Florida to the Caribbean would be canceled if it were unable to operate in The black. Services that lose money routinely fail. There is no more reason for taxpayers to subsidize Amtrak than to subsidize United Airlines, Greyhound Bus Company or Carnival Cruise Lines.

Amtrak can be profitable. But only if Congress puts it back on track by weaning the railroad from federal subsidies. For 20 years, Amtrak supporters have promised that self-sufficiency is "just around the corner." Now is the time for Amtrak to turn that corner.



I think the best option would be to give AMTRAK the boot from our fair city. If possible, the line and the train need to be sold to a private entepreneur who would be contractually obligated to leave it on the OKC-FT Worth line.

HOT ROD
02-16-2005, 11:46 AM
I agree Patrick. Should we forward our wish list and commentary over to Cornett and the state?

HOT ROD
02-16-2005, 11:57 AM
Midtowner, I agree. We should move away from AMTRAK if we can.

But then too, we could stipulate what we want and how we want the train to be run, since our state would subsidize it.

Patrick, I disagree with you about the gas tax (surprised?) The train is a transportation option just like roads. Even though the most of the state probably would not use it, it is an option for our state and a boon for our economic, cultural, financial, governmental, educational, and population centre - Oklahoma City!

In most states, there are taxes in place which often go to support the big city where smaller communmities often complain. But what they dont realize, it the state would be nothing if it werent for the big city. In reality, big cities contribute way more in revenue than the smaller cities and towns to begin with. Im sure OKC's revenue tax generation is higher than the combined tax revenue of all other communities in the state less Tulsa. And we know OKC is a higher generator compared to Tulsa.

So if OKC (and Tulsa) contribute much of the income, and would contribute much of the revenue from gasoline taxes, then the argument from smaller communities significantly diminishes. The train does bring in tourist dollars to OKC, and communities along the way. I think AMTRAK should explore that further, offer tourist type trains and expand the offerings on the scheduled service.

Also, have another train running that would bring Texans here! Im sure they would rather arrive in OKC at noon than at 10pm and have to get a hotel downtown!

And finally, express trains between OKC and FTW (and Dallas) is essential for business clientel. Like you said Patrick, it would require a faster train but the fact that it would be nonstop would make it faster than the current heartland flyer. How I would run the express line is SouthBound Nonstop OKC - FTW (or Dallas), Northbound FTW (or Dallas) to Norman to OKC. I would not have a Norman stop southbound because no one from OKC would use it as Norman is a suburb. However, Texans would probably like the Norman stop for business. Then there are other transit options for them to come into OKC or just take the evening Heartland into OKC.

Diogenes
02-16-2005, 02:26 PM
If a line were to run from OKC to Tulsa Amtrak would have to fight the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

mranderson
02-16-2005, 05:05 PM
It would be a setback to once again become the only major city in the nation without Amtrak service.

If we ran the line from Oklahoma City to Tulsa, it would work also. If the turnpike authority was to fight anything, they would have already fought the airlines for that 15 minute flight from the two cities.

Patrick
02-17-2005, 11:00 PM
If the turnpike authority was to fight anything, they would have already fought the airlines for that 15 minute flight from the two cities.

This may sound strange, but I didn't even realize the airlnies had a flight from here to Tulsa. Does anyone even use it? Sounds kind of pointless to me. It would take me longer to drive to the airport, go through security, and wait for my flight than it would take to just drive there.

This is where a train to Tulsa and back might be a good option....for those that don't want to drive, but can't see the point in flying to Tulsa. Amtrak is simply less of a hassle.

I'm with you guys....I think if another company was running it, and it was marketed better, a passenger train line from Tulsa to OKC to Fort Worth would be more profitable.

okcpulse
02-19-2005, 12:01 AM
Oklahoma as a state was punned by our neighbors because we had no Amtrak service, and now we have it. I wouldn't want to lose passenger rail service. But Amtrak as a whole is swallowing up billions of federal dollars. Is there a reason for this? What's Amtrak doing to make service so costly? If Amtrak is causing Washington to foot such a huge bill, then what's the cost for Oklahoma in the long run?

If we want passenger rail to continue in urban Oklahoma, then we WILL need Tulsa's support, and that involves making sure that Tulsa gets what they were promised.

Jay
02-19-2005, 12:10 AM
I'm just waiting for Amtrak to provide service from OKC to Hawaii.










Yes of course I'm kidding everytime I hear anything about Amtrak I'm reminded of the movie Hot Shotts Part Deux. Topper Harley misses his chance to meet up with Ramada to take the train to Hawaii.

OUman
02-19-2005, 12:56 PM
This may sound strange, but I didn't even realize the airlnies had a flight from here to Tulsa. Does anyone even use it? Sounds kind of pointless to me. It would take me longer to drive to the airport, go through security, and wait for my flight than it would take to just drive there.

This is where a train to Tulsa and back might be a good option....for those that don't want to drive, but can't see the point in flying to Tulsa. Amtrak is simply less of a hassle.

I'm with you guys....I think if another company was running it, and it was marketed better, a passenger train line from Tulsa to OKC to Fort Worth would be more profitable.

There is no flight between Tulsa and Oklahoma City any longer.

Delta Airlines used to operate flights between both cities to pick up/drop off passengers at both airports (TUL and OKC) when it had one flight that went from Atlanta-Tulsa-Oklahoma City-Salt Lake City-San Jose, and back again the same way. It operated that for about 15 years, then dropped it in 2003, when we got an additional nonstop between here and Atlanta.

Great Plains had flights between TUL and OKC so that it could fly its 328's between Oklahoma City and Albuquerque, and between Tulsa and both, Nashville and St. Louis (Mid America Airport). It also got passengers from both cities who wanted to have a quick way of getting to Nashville, St. Louis and Albuquerque.

On the subject, I think what the U.S. needs is to do away with Amtrak (keep the employees) and start from scratch. Year after year, Amtrak is losing money. Sure, it would be a pain in the rear, a big pain, but if done gradually and in the right manner, we would have a much better and stable passenger rail network.

OUman

mranderson
02-19-2005, 12:58 PM
What about Tulsa to Oklahoma City? There was a flight. I have used it when I was grounded in Denver a couple of times. It was United.

OUman
02-19-2005, 02:15 PM
What about Tulsa to Oklahoma City? There was a flight. I have used it when I was grounded in Denver a couple of times. It was United.

I mentioned that in my post. Delta operated flights in both directions, from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City to Tulsa, but they were part of the multi-stop runs between Atlanta and San Jose.

I've flown the only Delta flight that was operated between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, four times, on my way to Atlanta or coming back from Atlanta. Believe it or not, even back then ('93 and '96) there were passengers who boarded the plane at Tulsa Int'l or Will Rogers Airport, and headed out of the plane at either airport, and sometimes, quite a few I might add. I've seen that myself.

United has not operated flights between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. But I remember the days when United operated flights between Oklahoma City and both Salt Lake City and Phoenix, and not too far ago.

OUman

mranderson
02-19-2005, 04:04 PM
"United has not operated flights between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. But I remember the days when United operated flights between Oklahoma City and both Salt Lake City and Phoenix, and not too far ago."

So. What you are saying is the United flight I was on between Tulsa and Oklahoma City in 2000 was a dream? Also. When is "not to far ago?"

xrayman
02-19-2005, 04:57 PM
Floater, that's the Amtrack way.

With all the subsidies thrown their way, they will continue to hemmorage money. I would be in favor of yanking all federal subsidies and allowing a company with competent management to try to create a profitable business. Amtrack just isn't getting it done.
Amtrak is doing an amazing job with what they have. In fact, they are considered one of the finest run transportation companies in the United States. They squeeze blood from turnips.

Passenger rail is something that is subsidized everywhere in the world. You read that right. Most countries don't bat an eyelash.

As for subsidies. An Amtrak subsidy is somehow horrible, while government handouts in the new exploding "Homeland Security" industry is all just fine. Subsidies to defense contractors to continue to manufacture weapons even the Pentagon doesn't want is all okay. Why pick on Amtrak? If you want to be consistent - go after agricultural subsidies, defense, "Homeland Security".... There are PLENTY of companies that SURVIVE on government subsidies, but nobody here is telling them to shut down and get "competent management."

I don't mean this rude in any way, but there are many uninformed posters here and people totally ignorant on what Amtrak is all about, how they run, etc.

Take a look and learn:
http://www.amtrak.com